Tag Archives: Data Integration

More Evidence That Data Integration Is Clearly Strategic

Data Integration Is Clearly Strategic

Data Integration Is Strategic

A recent study from Epicor Software Corporation surveyed more than 300 IT and business decision-makers.  The study results highlighted the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Australian businesses. The independent research report “From Business Processes to Product Distribution” was based upon a survey of Australian organizations with more than 20 employees.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 65% of organizations cite data processing and integration as hampering distribution capability, with nearly half claiming their existing software and ERP is not suitable for distribution.
  • Nearly two-thirds of enterprises have some form of distribution process, involving products or services.
  • More than 80% of organizations have at least some problem with product or service distribution.
  • More than 50% of CIOs in organizations with distribution processes believe better distribution would increase revenue and optimize business processes, with a further 38% citing reduced operating costs.

The core findings: “With better data integration comes better automation and decision making.”

This report is one of many I’ve seen over the years that come to the same conclusion.  Most of those involved with the operations of the business don’t have access to key data points they need, thus they can’t automate tactical decisions, and also cannot “mine” the data, in terms of understanding the true state of the business.

The more businesses deal with building and moving products, the more data integration becomes an imperative value.  As stated in this survey, as well as others, the large majority cite “data processing and integration as hampering distribution capabilities.”

Of course, these issues goes well beyond Australia.  Most enterprises I’ve dealt with have some gap between the need to share key business data to support business processes, and decision support, and what current exists in terms of data integration capabilities.

The focus here is on the multiple values that data integration can bring.  This includes:

  • The ability to track everything as it moves from manufacturing, to inventory, to distribution, and beyond.  You to bind these to core business processes, such as automatic reordering of parts to make more products, to fill inventory.
  • The ability to see into the past, and to see into the future.  The emerging approaches to predictive analytics allow businesses to finally see into the future.  Also, to see what went truly right and truly wrong in the past.

While data integration technology has been around for decades, most businesses that both manufacture and distribute products have not taken full advantage of this technology.  The reasons range from perceptions around affordability, to the skills required to maintain the data integration flow.  However, the truth is that you really can’t afford to ignore data integration technology any longer.  It’s time to create and deploy a data integration strategy, using the right technology.

This survey is just an instance of a pattern.  Data integration was considered optional in the past.  With today’s emerging notions around the strategic use of data, clearly, it’s no longer an option.

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Informatica’s Hadoop Connectivity Reaches for the Clouds

The Informatica Cloud team has been busy updating connectivity to Hadoop using the Cloud Connector SDK.  Updated connectors are available now for Cloudera and Hortonworks and new connectivity has been added for MapR, Pivotal HD and Amazon EMR (Elastic Map Reduce).

Informatica Cloud’s Hadoop connectivity brings a new level of ease of use to Hadoop data loading and integration.  Informatica Cloud provides a quick way to load data from popular on premise data sources and apps such as SAP and Oracle E-Business, as well as SaaS apps, such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Workday, into Hadoop clusters for pilots and POCs.  Less technical users are empowered to contribute to enterprise data lakes through the easy-to-use Informatica Cloud web user interface.

Hadoop

Informatica Cloud’s rich connectivity to a multitude of SaaS apps can now be leveraged with Hadoop.  Data from SaaS apps for CRM, ERP and other lines of business are becoming increasingly important to enterprises. Bringing this data into Hadoop for analytics is now easier than ever.

Users of Amazon Web Services (AWS) can leverage Informatica Cloud to load data from SaaS apps and on premise sources into EMR directly.  Combined with connectivity to Amazon Redshift, Informatica Cloud can be used to move data into EMR for processing and then onto Redshift for analytics.

Self service data loading and basic integration can be done by less technical users through Informatica Cloud’s drag and drop web-based user interface.  This enables more of the team to contribute to and collaborate on data lakes without having to learn Hadoop.

Bringing the cloud and Big Data together to put the potential of data to work – that’s the power of Informatica in action.

Free trials of the Informatica Cloud Connector for Hadoop are available here: http://www.informaticacloud.com/connectivity/hadoop-connector.html

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BCBS 239 – What Are Banks Talking About?

I recently participated on an EDM Council panel on BCBS 239 earlier this month in London and New York. The panel consisted of Chief Risk Officers, Chief Data Officers, and information management experts from the financial industry. BCBS 239 set out 14 key principles requiring banks aggregate their risk data to allow banking regulators to avoid another 2008 crisis, with a deadline of Jan 1, 2016.  Earlier this year, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision released the findings from a self-assessment from the Globally Systemically Important Banks (GISB’s) in their readiness to 11 out of the 14 principles related to BCBS 239. 

Given all of the investments made by the banking industry to improve data management and governance practices to improve ongoing risk measurement and management, I was expecting to hear signs of significant process. Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done to satisfy BCBS 239 as evidenced from my findings. Here is what we discussed in London and New York.

  • It was clear that the “Data Agenda” has shifted quite considerably from IT to the Business as evidenced by the number of risk, compliance, and data governance executives in the room.  Though it’s a good sign that business is taking more ownership of data requirements, there was limited discussions on the importance of having capable data management technology, infrastructure, and architecture to support a successful data governance practice. Specifically capable data integration, data quality and validation, master and reference data management, metadata to support data lineage and transparency, and business glossary and data ontology solutions to govern the terms and definitions of required data across the enterprise.
  • With regard to accessing, aggregating, and streamlining the delivery of risk data from disparate systems across the enterprise and simplifying the complexity that exists today from point to point integrations accessing the same data from the same systems over and over again creating points of failure and increasing the maintenance costs of supporting the current state.  The idea of replacing those point to point integrations via a centralized, scalable, and flexible data hub approach was clearly recognized as a need however, difficult to envision given the enormous work to modernize the current state.
  • Data accuracy and integrity continues to be a concern to generate accurate and reliable risk data to meet normal and stress/crisis reporting accuracy requirements. Many in the room acknowledged heavy reliance on manual methods implemented over the years and investing in Automating data integration and onboarding risk data from disparate systems across the enterprise is important as part of Principle 3 however, much of what’s in place today was built as one off projects against the same systems accessing the same data delivering it to hundreds if not thousands of downstream applications in an inconsistent and costly way.
  • Data transparency and auditability was a popular conversation point in the room as the need to provide comprehensive data lineage reports to help explain how data is captured, from where, how it’s transformed, and used remains a concern despite advancements in technical metadata solutions that are not integrated with their existing risk management data infrastructure
  • Lastly, big concerns regarding the ability to capture and aggregate all material risk data across the banking group to deliver data by business line, legal entity, asset type, industry, region and other groupings, to support identifying and reporting risk exposures, concentrations and emerging risks.  This master and reference data challenge unfortunately cannot be solved by external data utility providers due to the fact the banks have legal entity, client, counterparty, and securities instrument data residing in existing systems that require the ability to cross reference any external identifier for consistent reporting and risk measurement.

To sum it up, most banks admit they have a lot of work to do. Specifically, they must work to address gaps across their data governance and technology infrastructure.BCBS 239 is the latest and biggest data challenge facing the banking industry and not just for the GSIB’s but also for the next level down as mid-size firms will also be required to provide similar transparency to regional regulators who are adopting BCBS 239 as a framework for their local markets.  BCBS 239 is not just a deadline but the principles set forth are a key requirement for banks to ensure they have the right data to manage risk and ensure transparency to industry regulators to monitor system risk across the global markets. How ready are you?

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Which Method of Controls Should You Use to Protect Sensitive Data in Databases and Enterprise Applications? Part II

Sensitive Data

Protecting Sensitive Data

To determine what is the appropriate sensitive data protection method to use, you should first answer the following questions regarding the requirements:

  • Do you need to protect data at rest (in storage), during transmission, and/or when accessed?
  • Do some privileged users still need the ability to view the original sensitive data or does sensitive data need to be obfuscated at all levels?
  • What is the granularity of controls that you need?
    • Datafile level
    • Table level
    • Row level
    • Field / column level
    • Cell level
    • Do you need to be able to control viewing vs. modification of sensitive data?
    • Do you need to maintain the original characteristics / format of the data (e.g. for testing, demo, development purposes)?
    • Is response time latency / performance of high importance for the application?  This can be the case for mission critical production applications that need to maintain response times in the order of seconds or sub-seconds.

In order to help you determine which method of control is appropriate for your requirements, the following table provides a comparison of the different methods and their characteristics.

data

A combination of protection method may be appropriate based on your requirements.  For example, to protect data in non-production environments, you may want to use persistent data masking to ensure that no one has access to the original production data, since they don’t need to.  This is especially true if your development and testing is outsourced to third parties.  In addition, persistent data masking allows you to maintain the original characteristics of the data to ensure test data quality.

In production environments, you may want to use a combination of encryption and dynamic data masking.  This is the case if you would like to ensure that all data at rest is protected against unauthorized users, yet you need to protect sensitive fields only for certain sets of authorized or privileged users, but the rest of your users should be able to view the data in the clear.

The best method or combination of methods will depend on each scenario and set of requirements for your environment and organization.  As with any technology and solution, there is no one size fits all.

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Which Method of Controls Should You Use to Protect Sensitive Data in Databases and Enterprise Applications? Part I

Sensitive Data

Protecting Sensitive Data

I’m often asked to share my thoughts about protecting sensitive data. The questions that typically come up include:

  • Which types of data should be protected?
  • Which data should be classified as “sensitive?”
  • Where is this sensitive data located?
  • Which groups of users should have access to this data?

Because these questions come up frequently, it seems ideal to share a few guidelines on this topic.

When protecting the confidentiality and integrity of data, the first level of defense is Authentication and access control. However, data with higher levels of sensitivity or confidentiality may require additional levels of protection, beyond regular authentication and authorization methods.

There are a number of control methods for securing sensitive data available in the market today, including:

  • Encryption
  • Persistent (Static) Data Masking
  • Dynamic Data Masking
  • Tokenization
  • Retention management and purging

Encryption is a cryptographic method of encoding data.  There are generally, two methods of encryption:  symmetric (using single secret key) and asymmetric (using public and private keys).  Although there are methods of deciphering encrypted information without possessing the key, a good encryption algorithm makes it very difficult to decode the encrypted data without knowledge of the key.  Key management is usually a key concern with this method of control.  Encryption is ideal for mass protection of data (e.g. an entire data file, table, partition, etc.) against unauthorized users.

Persistent or static data masking obfuscates data at rest in storage.  There is usually no way to retrieve the original data – the data is permanently masked.  There are multiple techniques for masking data, including: shuffling, substitution, aging, encryption, domain-specific masking (e.g. email address, IP address, credit card, etc.), dictionary lookup, randomization, etc.  Depending on the technique, there may be ways to perform reverse masking  - this should be used sparingly.  Persistent masking is ideal for cases where all users should not see the original sensitive data (e.g. for test / development environments) and field level data protection is required.

Dynamic data masking de-identifies data when it is accessed.  The original data is still stored in the database.  Dynamic data masking (DDM) acts as a proxy between the application and database and rewrites the user / application request against the database depending on whether the user has the privilege to view the data or not.  If the requested data is not sensitive or the user is a privileged user who has the permission to access the sensitive data, then the DDM proxy passes the request to the database without modification, and the result set is returned to the user in the clear.  If the data is sensitive and the user does not have the privilege to view the data, then the DDM proxy rewrites the request to include a masking function and passes the request to the database to execute.  The result is returned to the user with the sensitive data masked.  Dynamic data masking is ideal for protecting sensitive fields in production systems where application changes are difficult or disruptive to implement and performance / response time is of high importance.

Tokenization substitutes a sensitive data element with a non-sensitive data element or token.  The first generation tokenization system requires a token server and a database to store the original sensitive data.  The mapping from the clear text to the token makes it very difficult to reverse the token back to the original data without the token system.  The existence of a token server and database storing the original sensitive data renders the token server and mapping database as a potential point of security vulnerability, bottleneck for scalability, and single point of failure. Next generation tokenization systems have addressed these weaknesses.  However, tokenization does require changes to the application layer to tokenize and detokenize when the sensitive data is accessed.  Tokenization can be used in production systems to protect sensitive data at rest in the database store, when changes to the application layer can be made relatively easily to perform the tokenization / detokenization operations.

Retention management and purging is more of a data management method to ensure that data is retained only as long as necessary.  The best method of reducing data privacy risk is to eliminate the sensitive data.  Therefore, appropriate retention, archiving, and purging policies should be applied to reduce the privacy and legal risks of holding on to sensitive data for too long.  Retention management and purging is a data management best practices that should always be put to use.

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The Pros and Cons: Data Integration from the Bottom-Up and the Top-Down

Data Integration from the Bottom-Up and the Top-Down

Data Integration from the Bottom-Up and the Top-Down

What are the first steps of a data integration project?  Most are at a loss.  There are several ways to approach data integration, and your approach depends largely upon the size and complexity of your problem domain.

With that said, the basic approaches to consider are from the top-down, or the bottom-up.  You can be successful with either approach.  However, there are certain efficiencies you’ll gain with a specific choice, and it could significantly reduce the risk and cost.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of each approach.

Top-Down

Approaching data integration from the top-down means moving from the high level integration flows, down to the data semantics.  Thus, you an approach, perhaps even a tool-set (using requirements), and then define the flows that are decomposed down to the raw data.

The advantages of this approach include:

The ability to spend time defining the higher levels of abstraction without being limited by the underlying integration details.  This typically means that those charged with designing the integration flows are more concerned with how they have to deal with the underlying source and target, and this approach means that they don’t have to deal with that issue until later, as they break down the flows.

The disadvantages of this approach include:

The data integration architect does not consider the specific needs of the source or target systems, in many instances, and thus some rework around the higher level flows may have to occur later.  That causes inefficiencies, and could add risk and cost to the final design and implementation.

Bottom-Up

For the most part, this is the approach that most choose for data integration.  Indeed, I use this approach about 75 percent of the time.  The process is to start from the native data in the sources and targets, and work your way up to the integration flows.  This typically means that those charged with designing the integration flows are more concerned with the underlying data semantic mediation than the flows.

The advantages of this approach include:

It’s typically a more natural and traditional way of approaching data integration.  Called “data-driven” integration design in many circles, this initially deals with the details, so by the time you get up to the integration flows there are few surprises, and there’s not much rework to be done.  It’s a bit less risky and less expensive, in most cases.

The disadvantages of this approach include:

Starting with the details means that you could get so involved in the details that you miss the larger picture, and the end state of your architecture appears to be poorly planned, when all is said and done.  Of course, that depends on the types of data integration problems you’re looking to solve.

No matter which approach you leverage, with some planning and some strategic thinking, you’ll be fine.  However, there are different paths to the same destination, and some paths are longer and less efficient than others.  As you pick an approach, learn as you go, and adjust as needed.

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Embracing the Hybrid IT World through Cloud Integration

Embracing the Hybrid IT World through Cloud Integration

Embracing Hybrid IT through Cloud Integration

Being here at Oracle Open World, it’s hard not to think about Oracle’s broad scope in enterprise software and the huge influence it wields over our daily work. But even as all-encompassing as Oracle has become, the emergence of the cloud is making us equally reliant on a whole new class of complementary applications and services. During the early era of on-premise apps, different lines of businesses (LOBs) selected the leading application for CRM, ERP, HCM, and so on. In the cloud, it feels like we have come full circle to the point where best of breed cloud applications have been deployed across the enterprise, with the exception that the data models, services and operations are not under our direct control. As a result, Hybrid IT, and the ability to integrate major on-premises applications such as Oracle E-Business, PeopleSoft, and Siebel, to name a few with cloud applications such as Oracle Cloud Applications, Salesforce, Workday, Marketo, SAP Cloud Applications, and Microsoft Cloud Apps, has become one of businesses’ greatest imperatives and challenges.

With Informatica Cloud, we’ve long tracked the growth of the various cloud apps and its adoption in the enterprise. Common business patterns – such as opportunity-to-order, employee onboarding, data migration and business intelligence – that once took place solely on-premises are now being conducted both in the cloud and on-premises.

The fact is that we are well on our way to a world where our business needs are best met by a mix of on-premises and cloud applications. Regardless of what we do or make, we can no longer get away with just on-premises applications – or at least not for long.  As we become more reliant on cloud services, such as those offered by Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, NetSuite, Workday, we are embracing the reality of a new hybrid world, and the imperative for simpler integration it demands.

So, as the ground shifts beneath us, moving us toward the hybrid world, we, as business and IT users, are left standing with a choice: Continue to seek solutions in our existing on-premises integration stacks, or go beyond, to find them with the newer and simpler cloud solution. Let us briefly look at five business patterns we’ve been tracking.

One of the first things we’ve noticed with the hybrid environment is the incredible frequency with which data is moved back and forth between the on-premises and cloud environments. We call this the data integration pattern, and it is best represented by getting data, such as price list or inventory from Oracle E-Business into a cloud app so that the actual user of the cloud app can view the most updated information. Here the data (usually master data) is copied toserves a certain purpose. Data Integration also involves the typical needs of data to be transformed before it can be inserted or updated. The understanding of metadata and data models of the involved applications is key to do this effectively and repeatedly.

The second is the application integration pattern, or the real time transaction flow between your on-premises and cloud environment, where you have business processes and services that need to communicate with one another. Here, the data needs to be referenced in real time for a knowledge worker to take action.

The third, data warehousing in the cloud, is an emerging pattern that is gaining importance for both mid- and large-size companies. In this pattern, businesses are moving massive amounts of data in bulk from both on-premises and cloud sources into a cloud data warehouse, such as Amazon Redshift, for BI analysis.

The fourth, the Internet of Things (IOT) pattern, is also emerging and is becoming more important, especially as new technologies and products, such as Nest, enable us to push streaming data (sensor data, web logs, etc.) and combine them with other cloud and on-premises data sources into a cloud data store. Often the data is unstructured and hence it is critical for an integration platform to effectively deal with unstructured data.

The fifth and final pattern, API integration, is gaining prominence in the cloud. Here, an on-premise or cloud application exposes the data or service as an external API that can be consumed directly by applications or by a higher-level composite app in an orchestration.

While there are certainly different approaches to the challenges brought by Hybrid IT, cloud integration is often best-suited to solving them.

Here’s why.

First, while the integration problems are more or less similar to the on-premise world, the patterns now overlap between cloud and on-premise. Second, integration responsibility is now picked up at the edge, closer to the users, whom we call “citizen integrators”. Third, time to market and agility demands that any integration platform you work with can live up to your expectations of speed. There are no longer multiyear integration initiatives in the era of the cloud. Finally, the same values that made cloud application adoption attractive (such as time-to-value, manageability, low operational overhead) also apply to cloud integration.

One of the most important forces driving cloud adoption is the need for companies to put more power into hands of the business user.  These users often need to access data in other systems and they are quite comfortable going through the motions of doing so without actually being aware that they are performing integration. We call this class of users ‘Citizen Integrators’. For example, if a user uploads an excel file to Salesforce, it’s not something they would call as “integration”. It is an out-of-the-box action that is integrated with their user experience and is simple to use from a tooling point of view and oftentimes native within the application they are working with.

Cloud Integration Convergence is driving many integration use cases. The most common integration – such as employee onboarding – can span multiple integration patterns. It involves data integration, application integration and often data warehousing for business intelligence. If we agree that doing this in the cloud makes sense, the question is whether you need three different integration stacks in the cloud for each integration pattern. And even if you have three different stacks, what if an integration flow involves the comingling of multiple patterns? What we are noticing is a single Cloud Integration platform to address more and more of these use cases and also providing the tooling for both a Citizen Integrator as well as an experienced Integration Developer.

The bottom line is that in the new hybrid world we are seeing a convergence, where the industry is moving towards streamlined and lighter weight solutions that can handle multiple patterns with one platform.

The concept of Cloud Integration Convergence is an important one and we have built its imperatives into our products. With our cloud integration platform, we combine the ability to handle any integration pattern with an easy-to-use interface that empowers citizen integrators, and frees integration developers for more rigorous projects. And because we’re Informatica, we’ve designed it to work in tandem with PowerCenter, which means anything you’ve developed for PowerCenter can be leveraged for Informatica Cloud and vice versa thereby fulfilling Informatica’s promise of Map Once, Deploy Anywhere.

In closing, I invite you to visit us at the Informatica booth at Oracle Open World in booth #3512 in Moscone West. I’ll be there with some of my colleagues, and we would be happy to meet and talk with you about your experiences and challenges with the new Hybrid IT world.

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Once Again, Data Integration Proves Critical to Data Analytics

When it comes to cloud-based data analytics, a recent study by Ventana Research (as found in Loraine Lawson’s recent blog post) provides a few interesting data points.  The study reveals that 40 percent of respondents cited lowered costs as a top benefit, improved efficiency was a close second at 39 percent, and better communication and knowledge sharing also ranked highly at 34 percent.

Ventana Research also found that organizations cite a unique and more complex reason to avoid cloud analytics and BI.  Legacy integration work can be a major hindrance, particularly when BI tools are already integrated with other applications.  In other words, it’s the same old story:

You can’t make sense of data that you can’t see.

Data Integration Proves Critical to Data Analytics

Data Integration is Critical to Data Analytics

The ability to deal with existing legacy systems when moving to concepts such as big data or cloud-based analytics is critical to the success of any enterprise data analytics strategy.  However, most enterprises don’t focus on data integration as much as they should, and hope that they can solve the problems using ad-hoc approaches.

These approaches rarely work as well a they should, if at all.  Thus, any investment made in data analytics technology is often diminished because the BI tools or applications that leverage analytics can’t see all of the relevant data.  As a result, only part of the story is told by the available data, and those who leverage data analytics don’t rely on the information, and that means failure.

What’s frustrating to me about this issue is that the problem is easily solved.  Those in the enterprise charged with standing up data analytics should put a plan in place to integrate new and legacy systems.  As part of that plan, there should be a common understanding around business concepts/entities of a customer, sale, inventory, etc., and all of the data related to these concepts/entities must be visible to the data analytics engines and tools.  This requires a data integration strategy, and technology.

As enterprises embark on a new day of more advanced and valuable data analytics technology, largely built upon the cloud and big data, the data integration strategy should be systemic.  This means mapping a path for the data from the source legacy systems, to the views that the data analytics systems should include.  What’s more, this data should be in real operational time because data analytics loses value as the data becomes older and out-of-date.  We operate a in a real-time world now.

So, the work ahead requires planning to occur at both the conceptual and physical levels to define how data analytics will work for your enterprise.  This includes what you need to see, when you need to see it, and then mapping a path for the data back to the business-critical and, typically, legacy systems.  Data integration should be first and foremost when planning the strategy, technology, and deployments.

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